"Help! My Bonsai tree is dying!" Unfortunately, we get cries for help quite often on our forums. So we created a how-to guide on reviving a dying Bonsai. I'll take you through all the steps to rescue your bonsai.


Bad news...

I hate to break it to you, but trees don't generally die of old age, so you most likely messed up a bit. And now that you finally found this page, you’re likely too late...

But there's hope for you yet! How do you revive a bonsai tree?

Bonsai care is not that difficult. However, we estimate that more than 75% of newly bought Bonsai trees die within the first month. Follow the steps below to successfully care for your Bonsai tree.



STEP 1 - Identify your tree

First of all, you need to know what kind of tree you have. Indoor Bonsai have entirely different needs than outdoor Bonsai. You need to adapt the care of your Bonsai to its specific needs.

If you're not sure what kind of Bonsai you have, use the Identifying my Bonsai tree guide (opens in a new screen). If you're just starting out, you most likely have a Juniper or Ficus tree.



Juniper bonsai plant

A popular size and shape of Juniper Bonsai.


STEP 2 - Learn about the specific care for your Bonsai

Now that you've identified your Bonsai, learn how to take care of it correctly in our care guidelines section. If you happen to have a Ficus or Juniper tree simply click the link underneath the corresponding image above. Once you start watering and fertilizing your tree correctly, and you've found the optimal placement for your specific tree, your Bonsai is on it's way to recovery, and healthy growth.


STEP 3 - Common mistakes in Bonsai care

Now that you've read all about your specific tree-species and how to care for it, you should know what went wrong:

#1 Mistake: Forgetting to water

Bonsai trees are planted in small pots, which doesn't leave a lot of room for reserves in terms of nutrients and water. If you forget to water your Bonsai and the soil dries out completely, the roots will quickly dry out and the tree will die. You'll know your roots are drying out when the soil is completely dry and the leaves start to wither and fall off, or if you have an evergreen, its foliage will slowly turn yellow. If the roots have dried up completely you won't be able to save the tree. However, If the roots aren't completely dry yet, you can rescue the tree by watering it properly and following the appropriate care routine.

How much to water your Bonsai needs depends on the type of tree you have and the soil you've planted it in. If you've purchased a cheap starter Bonsai, chances are it's been shipped over from China in clay-like soil to survive the journey. This kind of soil does not absorb water quickly, and the trees can arrive with complications. To help your tree regain its strength and get it ready to repot, make sure you water it thoroughly. Water your tree, wait a few minutes, and then water it again, to make sure the entire clay-like soil has a chance to absorb all the moisture. Once your tree has recovered, repot it in the correct soil mixture as per our care guide.

Read more about watering Bonsai trees and about repotting your bonsai.


#2 Mistake: Placing an outdoor tree indoors

The Juniper is one of the most common Bonsai trees for beginners, but it is an outdoor tree. When placed inside, its foliage will turn yellow and the tree will slowly die. Now that you have identified your tree species, you know where to place it, and how to care for it.

Indoor Bonsai should be placed at a south-facing window, and outdoor Bonsai should get plenty of light and have protection from strong winds. Read more on Indoor Bonsai and Outdoor Bonsai care.


#3 Mistake: Overwatering

If you've planted your Bonsai using a soil mixture that retains a lot of water, frequent watering will keep your soil wet and cause the roots to rot and die. Neglecting your tree of water can kill a tree in days, but overwatering kills your tree slowly in a matter of weeks. Read more about Watering Bonsai trees.


#4 Mistake: Insufficient light

Most, if not all indoor Bonsai plants are subtropical trees. This means they require a lot of light to survive. Most homes do not get enough natural light, so it's important to place your tree directly on a south-facing window. Anything else is just not good enough. Read more about choosing the right place for your tree.


#5 Mistake: Lack of patience

Beginners are sometimes overly enthusiastic about redesigning their trees every other week. They tend to over-prune and adjust their wiring too often, and trees can't keep up with this rate of change. Big changes to your Bonsai, like repotting or significant pruning, should only be done once a year, and at the appropriate time of year. In between these stylings, care for your tree, and maintain its shape, but do not attempt to make big changes more than once a year.


STEP 4 - If you don't think you made any of the above mistakes

If you've cared for your tree properly as per the care guidelines, and it is still unhealthy and/or dying, your tree may be infected with some kind of pest. Check the leaves of your tree for insects and carefully remove the tree from its pot to see if there are any insects in the root mass.

Read more on Bonsai pests and diseases or post a few images on our Bonsai forum to get help.



STEP 5 - Rescuing your Bonsai tree

There is no magical cure to help your tree recover. The only thing you can do is follow the care guidelines for your particular tree. Don't neglect or overwater, and place your tree in an appropriate location. Hopefully, your tree will recover, and if you continue to care for your tree, it should live a long and healthy life.


STEP 6 - Long-term plan

Growing Bonsai trees is a fascinating hobby, so it's a real shame when beginners fail to keep their trees alive and get discouraged. Taking care of a Bonsai is not very difficult. Knowing which tree species you have and what your Bonsai needs are is all there is to it. Keep learning and improving!